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The Bewitching Twin
By Donna Fletcher
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Donna Fletcher
All right reserved.
He is dying.
Aliss hurriedly dressed, slipping into her dark green skirt and pale yellow blouse, while concern over the cleric's claim of his imminent death weighed on her mind. The cleric had been fine just this morning when she spoke with him. How could he be dying?
As a healer, she did not take any illness lightly, and being woken in the dark of night by a distraught clan member made one assume the worst.
Aliss quickly scooped her long red hair on top of her head, fastened it with a couple of bone combs, slipped into her doeskin boots, grabbed her healing basket sitting beside the door, and hurried out of her cottage.
A chill filled the late night air, reminding her that although spring had arrived a few weeks ago winter was reluctant to depart. She should have grabbed her shawl but it did not matter. The cleric's cottage was but a short distance.
A dark cloud blocked the light of the near full moon, causing Aliss to be more cautious of her steps. The night seemed more quiet than usual, not a soul stirred, the only sound a mere whispered breeze.
She arrived at the cleric's cottage and was disturbed to find the ill man alone. It was unusual that someone would not have remained at his side while she was summoned. The clan Hellewyk always looked after each other and although the young cleric had only been with them a month, he was considered family and treated as such.
Aliss hurried to his bedside, dropping her basket beside her.
"Aliss, is that you?"
"Aye, Cleric John." She reached out to touch the man's forehead, worried that fever might be the culprit.
He grabbed her wrist. "You brought your healing basket with you."
"Worry not, I have what I need to tend you."
"It holds all you need?"
She hoped to ease his concern. "My cottage is not far if I should need more."
"Nay, I do not want you to leave me. Does your basket not hold enough healing herbs?"
"It is filled with more than just herbs. I am certain that no matter what ails you, I have something to soothe it and make you well."
"You are a very good healer."
"So I have been told. Now let me tend you, for I do not think you are dying." "I am sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," Aliss said. Thinking he meant that he had disturbed her sleep, she sought to soothe him. "Illness and births do not wait for the light of day. I am often summoned in the middle of the night."
"Something I counted on." He leaped off the bed, grabbed her other wrist, forcing both behind her back, and had her trussed like a captive animal before she could blink.
Her scream barely reached her throat when a cloth was shoved into her mouth. A strip of cloth was wound around her mouth and head and tied at the back.
The room suddenly turned upside down when he hefted her over his shoulder, grabbed her healing basket and scurried to the door. He paused cautiously and once satisfied they were alone, he left the cottage without bothering to close the door behind him.
Panic rushed up and sent a wave of nausea coursing through her. Who was this man since he obviously was not a cleric? Why was he abducting her? Where was he taking her?
Fear struck her heart. The culprit who had abducted her and her twin sister Fiona when they were newborns had been caught and punished. They had been reunited with their parents and their brother Raynor.
Could this abduction somehow be connected?
She was jostled as her abductor lost his balance but he quickly regained his footing.
His trail would be easy for Fiona to follow. She was an excellent hunter and horseman and skilled in weaponry. Protective of Aliss, she would let nothing stop her from hunting the kidnapper down, not her pregnancy or her husband Tarr, chieftain of the clan Hellewyk.
Fiona would come after her, she had no doubt. But it disturbed her that her abductor was leaving a trail someone could easily track, because it meant he was either a fool or he had a plan that made it unimportant if he was followed.
She jerked her head up.
Had she heard voices? Were they behind her?
Distant footsteps kept pace with the cleric. She strained to see in the dark. Had someone discovered her absence already? Was her rescue close at hand? She continued to stare into the darkness, but not a single shadow intruded on the night.
She prayed for courage and prayed her sister followed. She heard the footsteps again, but again they faded.
Were Tarr's men surrounding them this very moment? Would she soon be returned home to family and friends?
Please let this nightmare end soon.
A sudden thought struck and she did not know whether to be fearful or relieved. This abduction could have to do with recent events that had not only upset her but her parents' clan Blackshaw as well as clan Hellewyk.
It had all started with a prediction made by the prophetess Giann before the twins were born. It was also the reason for their kidnapping those many years ago. Destruction to the clan was predicted if one twin did not wed. However, recently it was learned that destruction would befall the clan if both twins did not wed. When the Blackshaw and Hellewyk clans learned of this, clan members began demanding that Aliss wed soon since the prediction did not specify which clan would be affected.
Tarr was then forced to deliver the unpleasant news to Aliss, though he emphasized that she could choose her own husband, just as long as she did so quickly.
She did not wish to wed. Healing was her life and she had no time to pamper or care for a husband.
Excerpted from The Bewitching Twin by Donna Fletcher Copyright © 2006 by Donna Fletcher. Excerpted by permission.
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